As 2020 starts to come to an end, I think it is time to look back on this year and reminisce on the parts of wrestling that were awesome! Welcome to Robby's end of the year awards! This week we will be going over NXT and AEW's best performers in the ring. In-ring work is the bread and butter of a wrestling program. Many wrestlers over the years have forgone crazy characters and absurd stories in favor of hard-hitting matches that speak for themselves. While some of these performers on this list have gimmicks, all of them show up and consistently put on some of the best matches their promotions have to offer.
When talking about in-ring work, it is very easy to get caught up in technical fundamentals, smooth transition, and realistic holds, but in-ring prowess is much more than that. The best workers can tell a believable and compelling story all while pulling off moves that require years of training. All of the wrestlers on this list have shown that not only do they know the fundamentals, but they can put on matches that are worth talking about the next day.
AEW features some wrestling styles that can be controversial to some fans. Many AEW wrestlers will do huge spots with unrealistic setups, some will use an Irish whip as an opportunity to fling themselves across the ring as if they were hit by a train, and a lot of AEW's wrestlers are still getting used to working for a camera. There are guys on this list that are guilty of all of these "sins" but still deserve their spot due to the fact that they can draw in an audience and tell great stories in the ring.
Mox should maybe be considered the best out of the ring worker as the vast majority of his matches take place outside of the squared circle. Mox had an exciting run as AEW World Champion, and his matches backed him up as the best in the company. Moxley has faced some of the best that AEW has had to offer. My biggest drawback for Moxley is that at times his matches could get pretty predictable. Still, AEW did a good job of fixing that by adding a handful of stipulations and interesting finishes that kept all of his championship bouts from blending together.
Prior to the injury that put her on the sidelines for most of the summer, Britt Baker was one of the most compelling women to watch on AEW's roster. Her in-ring work has really improved this year, and I believe had she not been injured, Britt Baker would be the current AEW women's champion. Now, I know that Baker hasn't had many opportunities to step into the ring since "All Out" back in September. Still, if you remember back to the early days of the pandemic, Britt was heavily featured on the pretaped episodes of Dynamite prior to their move to Daily's Place. While most of her matches were against jobbers and wrestling students, when she did have a match against a star like Shida or Kris Statlander, she would tell excellent stories in the ring.
Britt Baker is one of the best in-ring workers that the AEW women's division has, and her lack of meaningful matches is only at the fault of AEW and not on Baker herself. I hope that 2021 brings us more Britt and maybe some gold for the doctor.
AEW's resident cowboy is a fan favorite for a reason. Adam Page took a small break at the outset of the pandemic but has been consistently featured since his return. Whether he has been defending the AEW Tag-Team titles with Kenny Omega or as a single's competitor Adam Page has been a constant element in AEW's best matches of 2020.
His match with Kenny against The Young Bucks at Revolution is already being considered one of the best tag matches of all time. His match against Kenny at Full Gear is absolutely a contender for match of the year. AEW has done a good job of keeping Page involved in storylines at all points of his career with the company. It will be exciting to see where he goes in 2021.
Shida has had a fantastic run as women's champion. Similar to Britt Baker, her lack of matches isn't her fault, but when she does get an opportunity in the ring, she absolutely kills it. Her matches against Nyla Rose and Thunder Rosa both stand out as some of the top pay per view matches of the year. Shida's style works perfectly for the AEW product, her work is very realistic, and even her take on the falcon arrow looks believable. I cannot wait to see what is coming up for Shida as AEW continues to put more time and effort into the division.
Like his former tag-team partner, Adam Page, Kenny Omega has consistently been a part of the best matches that AEW has had this year. While some have complained that today's Kenny Omega isn't the same as he used to be, that is not apparent in his in-ring work. While Kenny's overdramatic style can rub some critics the wrong way, he finds ways to tell stories in the ring even in his shortest of matches.
Beyond his in-ring work, AEW has done a fantastic job of protecting his one-winged angel finisher. To date, no one has kicked out of it, and it should probably stay that way. Kenny has been a blast to watch in the ring this year. He puts on great matches and continues to be a huge draw for the company. As the newly crowned AEW Champion, we likely won't see quite as many matches from him in 2021, but the newly formed partnership with Impact wrestling does suggest that he will wrestle more often than Moxley did.
So here is my list of the best in-ring performers of 2020 for AEW. Did I miss anyone? Let me know what you think by tweeting at me @robbydeshazer!
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